COSTA MESA, Calif .– About 10 minutes before the polls closed, supporters of Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate, began pouring into the ballroom of an Orange County hotel, sipping wine and sour whiskey. The group performed “The Girl From Ipanema” and the stage was surrounded by red, white and blue streamers, as participants waited for Mr. Elder.
Just after the polls closed at 8 p.m., Fred Whitaker, Chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, warned the crowd – wrongly, it turned out – that the night would likely be long, as the early results were likely to favor Democrats. “Enjoy the food,” he said. “Enjoy the drink.”
And then they prayed.
Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills thanked God for making California. “We pray, we ask you to grant victory,” he said.
Later, after The The US Express News called the race for Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mr. Elder addressed the crowd and conceded.
“Let’s be gracious in defeat,” he said, adding, “We may have lost the battle, but we will win the war. “
The crowded ballroom applauds.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Elder has made baseless statements about voter fraud, echoing former President Donald J. Trump. He had previously suggested that he would challenge the results if he lost and Mr Newsom kept his job. But on Tuesday night, he did not say if he plans to challenge the results.
At the event, which the candidate touted as a “victory party,” some of Mr. Elder’s supporters said they would accept defeat if it happened. “Of course,” said Cheryl Rosenberg, an educator from the Inland Empire. “I’m not going to call it cheating.”
Ms Rosenberg, 57, rushed to the Costa Mesa hotel straight from work with her friend and colleague, Susan Sawyer, both dressed in American flag-themed clothing. Ms Sawyer also said she would also accept the election result if he did not favor Mr Elder.
But Ms Sawyer, 58, said she had already decided to leave California anyway because of the cost of living. A lifelong Californian, she said she wished she could stay. But she and her husband are near retirement and believe they can’t afford to spend their golden years in the state. So they recently sold their house for $ 720,000 and will be moving to Arizona.
“We’re just going to take the money and run,” she said.
The two friends were elated when the recall effort qualified for the ballot, both deeming Mr Newsom to be “a horrible governor”. They decided to back Mr. Elder, a Tory radio host, because he was not a career politician and had what they said were common sense solutions to problems such as the fires. of the forest and the homelessness crisis.
“He wants a California that we want to get back,” Ms. Rosenberg said.